Aspiring Lady Longhorn volleyball players had an opportunity to impress coach Arnold Stonebrink and his three new assistants — Cydney Figueroa, Hannah Armenta and Tori Wilbanks — during a 30-team, off-season tournament played June 22 at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside.
There, the A team showed well, finishing 8-2 and in second place in pool play.
But in cross-pool play, Payson struggled, finishing with a 2-6 to take a No. 10 seed in bracket play.
In it, Payson opened with a win over No. 7 St. David, but then lost to No. 2 Florence.
Relegated to the losers bracket, Payson defeated Poston Butte in two straight sets.
Pitted against No. 4 Snowflake in the next round, Payson lost the first set and won the second.
In the rubber match third set, Payson took a 7-4 lead, but passing miscues allowed Snowflake to score five straight points during what Stonebrink is calling “a hot service run.”
PHS rallied back to within a point at 10-9, but the Lobos scored the next point to win 11-9.
That defeat bounced Payson from the double elimination bracket and sent the players packing southwest on 260.
Although the PHS summer team lost at BR, Stonebrink returned to Payson saying he saw “lots of positives” in the team’s play.
Among them were the showings of setter McKenzie Creighton and middle hitters Emmee Ashby and Cori Barnett.
Creighton, Stonebrink said, “Ran the offense beautifully.
“She has sweet hands and put the ball in the perfect hitting position every time.”
The coach also praised her for scoring on well-timed and deceptive tips and making several fine saves.
Stonebrink called Ashby — who moved to Queen Creek for her junior year, but has since returned to PHS — “Our best hitter.”
Also, he said, she is “a strong middle hitter and runs all plays and hits to parts of the court with great power.”
At PHS and Queen Creek, Ashby built a reputation as a standout blocker who has a strong jump serve.
Barnett, Stonebrink said, “was our second best middle hitter.”
Although she is new to the position, the coach believes she has “worked hard to become good at it.”
She is a strong hitter who is known to read blocks well in order to avoid them.
Also in the BRHS tournament, the PHS B team finished seventh in the consolation bracket.
The C team, composed of all freshmen, turned in a yeoman-like performance compiling a 4-6 record against teams with older, more experienced players.
Among the team’s accomplishments was earning a split in cross-pool play against Payson B and falling 2-1 to Payson B in an exciting bracket matchup.